University of Pennsylvania to recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day

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To President Amy Gutmann, Provost Wendell Pritchett, Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli, and the Penn community: 

     Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a holiday that commemorates the history of Native peoples, acknowledges the resilience of Native peoples, and celebrates Native peoples continued global presence today. The Native community was the first community here and remains here today. It is necessary to acknowledge this history and create change in order to honor and respect Native peoples both past and present. This day pushes forward the remembrance of Indigenous peoples as well as their cultures and continues to fight for justice in present-day issues affecting their communities. It acknowledges the contributions and achievements of Indigenous peoples in the city of Philadelphia, the state of Pennsylvania, and Turtle Island as a whole. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is recognized on the second Monday of October. 

     In regard to the Indigenous community, the University of Pennsylvania has adopted the practice of giving land acknowledgements at commencement and convocation, along with other events held on campus. These land acknowledgments recognize that Penn was built and continues to reside on stolen Lenni-Lenape land, known as Lenapehoking, or “Land of the Lenape.” However, this is not enough to reconcile the past and Penn must go beyond the land acknowledgment. Penn has also been supportive of admissions efforts involving Indigenous peoples, and has provided resources on campus such as the Greenfield Intercultural Center. Although, current Indigenous students still feel invisible at Penn, and there is more work to be done in order to increase visibility and provide a learning environment for Indigenous students that will allow them to succeed. It is time, now more than ever, to confront the reality of Penn’s history, uplift Indigenous students and their communities, and actively fight against barriers that prevent Indigenous students from thriving at Penn. 

     We, members of Natives at Penn, other Indigenous students, and our peers at the University of Pennsylvania, are calling for the administration to voice their support for Indigenous peoples by officially recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday of October, with October 12th being the day of celebration this year. We are asking for an annual commitment to include Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the academic calendar, and to stand in solidarity with Indigenous students on this day. We believe that this is a step the administration can take in order to move away from the downfalls Benjamin Franklin and Penn have had with Indigenous peoples in the past, and to move towards a more inclusive and equitable future for all Indigenous students. We believe that the administration can do more to uphold their values regarding diversity and inclusion, and to confront the past that colonialism has left on our communities. 

     We hope that by taking this step Penn can create a space on campus that will increase awareness of Indigenous peoples’ presence and our different histories and cultures. Penn's failure to acknowledge Indigenous People's Day has been, and continues to be, a detriment to the Native community on campus, and beyond. We need Penn's support in acknowledging Indigenous Peoples Day to show solidarity in our ongoing fight against the negative effects that colonialism has had on our community. We seek to continue these efforts and create educational opportunities for other non-Native students to learn about who we are, engage in honest discussions, and work together towards a future of healing and understanding.